The hardest thing about being a professional sportswriter is maintaining objectivity. Other than that, it’s pretty much hot tubs, free beer, and living in the penthouse apartment. But that objectivity, when we all have rooting interests, is a bear.
Case in point: Odds are that Philly.com’s Jonathan Tannenwald — an Ivy League traditionalist in his heart of hearts — was wailing and tearing his hair as he wrote about an imminent proposal to form a four-team Ivy championship tourney to end each season. To his credit, Jonathan wrote a full 18 paragraphs before he finally cracked, and even then he did it in a professional manner:
You all know that I have been against having a conference tournament in Ivy League basketball for a long time. I started following the league in 2002, and it didn’t take me long to be convinced. Many coaches and athletic directors across the conference know my stance, as does the league office.
But right now, this is about straight reporting on the story, because that’s what’s required.
The Ivy League seems so placid and genteel from a distance, but you can bet the duck’s feet are churning like mad beneath the surface. Cornell’s Sweet 16 run in 2010 and Tommy Amaker’s arrival as head coach at Harvard, with an attendant increase in national attention to the league, has stoked up a certain amount of unrest. The Ancient Eight don’t do anything like the rest of DI does, and they’ve typically been pretty proud of that fact. The continued reliance on a full conference season that decides the NCAA tourney auto-bid, rather than a more arbitrary tournament setup, has long been a line the Ivies would not dream of crossing.
This proposal, however, isn’t coming from the top down, as most such changes do. According to original reporting by The Harvard Crimson, this one is being proposed by a cabal of head coaches. They’re proposing eliminating one regular-season game in order to cut down on missed class time, which is taken seriously in the Ivy. It’s the reason league teams play Friday/Saturday games rather than traveling in the middle of the week.
**UPDATE: Jonathan Tannenwald has said via twitter that Ivy League Athletics sources informed him late Saturday night that the elimination of a conference game will not be part of the proposal**
The loss of a regular-season game, more so than the addition of an all Ivy mini-Final Four, may be the sticking point for many purists. The proposal does have one thing going for it, however: that’s the way they do it in lacrosse. Lacrosse, man.